Despite poll defeat, Jefferson Parish school leaders planning to bring taxes back before voters

By Faimon A. Roberts III

Source: The Advocate

November 21, 2017

Just days after Jefferson Parish voters narrowly rejected a new property tax to fund a pay raise for public school employees, School Board members are gearing up for new tax proposals they hope to put before voters in the spring.

The architect of Saturday’s proposal, board member Cedric Floyd, said he planned to go back before board again with the same 8.45-mill, 10-year proposal. The tax would have raised about $28 million a year to give all school system employees raises.

Floyd brushed aside Saturday’s defeat. “We lost by 484 votes,” he said. “That’s less than two votes per precinct.”

He noted that six of his colleagues on the board and 20,500 parish voters had cast ballots in favor of the measure and said the school system owes it to employees to try again.

“Jefferson Parish School Board millages have a history of coming back to pass,” he said, pointing to 2013, when a 7-mill tax failed in May but passed in October.

However, Floyd may get resistance from some of his colleagues this time around. Most board members voted in support of the new tax proposal. But some, including Larry Dale, said this week that voters have rejected the 8.45-mill tax and that any new proposal to hike taxes for employee raises should be paired with a tax to fund facilities upgrades.

In the week before Saturday’s vote, Dale asked the school system’s superintendent to help draw up a plan that would include targeted raises for teachers and support employees, instead of an across-the-board hike. Any such proposal should be integrated into an upcoming facilities master plan, expected after the first of the year, he said.

Dale said he thinks teachers need better pay, but he argued that proponents of any new plan have to do a better job of communicating with the parish’s voters.

“I was not in agreement with how this election was run,” he said. “There was no transparency.”

Dale’s idea has early support from some other board members.

“I’m absolutely in favor of something like what Larry said,” said Sandy Denapolis-Bosarge.

She was the lone board member to vote against putting the 8.45-mill proposal before the voters.

Combining the facilities upgrades and teacher pay will have two main benefits, she added. It will give the school system time to figure out how to best target the raises to overcome retention problems — something the Bureau of Governmental Research said the proposal on Saturday’s ballot didn’t do — and it will also allow time to present the plan to the public and answer questions.

Board President Melinda Doucet agreed.

“This was a good start on educating the public,” Doucet said of the 8.45-mill proposal. “I think we just need some more time to educate people to the needs.”

Floyd, however, said he was committed to the 8.45-mill tax and expressed reservations about Dale’s plan to target the raises in certain subjects or schools. “It seems as if he is not going to be addressing the needs of every employee,” he said.

But Floyd said he couldn’t take a position on it because he hadn’t seen it in final form yet.

“It’s a plan with no ingredients,” he said. “I can’t be against something that doesn’t exist.”

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